A would-be Democratic candidate for a House of Delegates seat in Arlington says she decided not to run due to home affordability concerns.
“After much consideration I have made a personal decision not to seek the nomination for Virginia’s House of Delegates 2nd District in 2023,” she wrote at the time. “To those who have donated to me, you will receive a full refund of your kind contributions. Arlington has a bright future, and I am confident it will be well represented moving forward.”
Merlene, a former ARLnow opinion columnist who previously sought the Democratic nod for state Senate and County Board, revealed in an email to supporters Tuesday that her decision actually stemmed from housing affordability: she was unable to find a home she wanted to buy and could afford in District 2.
It has been a lifelong goal of mine to own a home. After 5 months searching in the 2nd District it became obvious this wasn’t in the cards. A policy that I have always preached is that people of all backgrounds need an equal opportunity to build wealth — through affordable education, well paying jobs, and the greatest investment in the American economy, owning a home. It would not be of service to the 2nd District to serve for just one or two terms and then move, and it would be a disservice to myself to continue to rent just to run for office when I have the ability to invest in myself and own a home.
After ending my bid for office, the search for a home became open to the entire DC and northern Virginia area. Truth be told, my perfect first home was actually right here in Arlington, just not in the new 2nd District. I look forward to engaging with all of you as I continue to deepen my roots here as a homeowner. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out.
District 2 mostly consists of several Metro corridor communities — Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, Crystal City and Pentagon City — as well as the single-family home neighborhoods surrounding them.
Merlene, who previously said affordable housing would be one of her top campaign issues, tells ARLnow she was able to buy a small house along a main road in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood.
Merlene noted that she only formed an exploratory committee for the 2023 race and was not officially a candidate. Candidate filings are typically made starting in January.
Merlene Drops Out of Delegate Race — From Nicole Merlene: “After much consideration I have made a personal decision not to seek the nomination for Virginia’s House of Delegates 2nd District in 2023… To those who have donated to me, you will receive a full return of your kind contributions.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Hammer Attack in Clarendon — “3100 block of Clarendon Boulevard. At approximately 2:45 a.m. on May 27, police were dispatched to the report of a fight. Upon arrival, officers located the male suspect and victim and it was determined following a verbal dispute, the suspect allegedly struck the victim in the head with a hammer.” [ACPD]
APS Literacy Challenges — “Supervisors with Arlington County’s English Language Arts Program submitted a report to the school board that highlights the challenges in meeting student literacy needs. According to the report, about 19% of county students were classified in what is known as the red ‘at risk’ category when looking at literacy skills. For Black students, the number placed in the at risk category in grades 3-5 has increased, while Hispanic students have seen increases in grades four and five.” [WTOP]
Large House Becoming Group Home — “The looming, not-family-friendly structure at 27th and N. Sycamore sts.–whose owners have long struggled to keep the place occupied — on May 9 sold for $1.6 million, per Zillow. The purchaser is the Fairfax-based Pathway Homes Inc. The nonprofit plans to convert the awkward three-floor, seven-bedroom house (zoned R-6 in single-family residential) to a home for 15 residents (with professional staff present) for a program for Arlingtonians suffering from mental illness, substance abuse and other disabilities.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Report: Va. Short 200k Affordable Homes — “A new report from the state’s Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission says Virginia is short at least 200,000 affordable rental units. Soaring rent prices are forcing a growing number of people to think twice about where home is.” [WSLS]
Small Fire at Rosslyn Safeway — From Dave Statter: “Watch for Wilson Blvd. to be shut in Rosslyn between Oak & Pierce due to a report of a fire in an oven at the Safeway.” [Twitter]
Small House Fire in Bluemont — “Careful on Wilson Boulevard near N. Lexington (near Bon Air Park) in #Arlington. Hose across Wilson Boulevard due to a small and under control house fire being handled by @ArlingtonVaFD.” [Twitter]
It’s Tuesday — Hot and humid throughout the day. High of 91 and low of 71. Sunrise at 5:47 am and sunset at 8:29 pm. [Weather.gov]
A half-dozen bills are set to hit the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates in January that were inspired by the poor conditions at the Serrano Apartments and other Virginia affordable housing properties.
After residents exposed poor living conditions at the Columbia Pike apartment complex, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) tells ARLnow he began drafting bills to strengthen tenant rights and improve living conditions in affordable housing properties across the Commonwealth.
“I believe no one should have to go through what the folks at the Serrano went through,” said Lopez, whose district includes the Serrano, owned by affordable housing developer AHC Inc., as well a dozen other properties owned by AHC and other local developers.
Since residents and advocates came forward in an ARLnow article published in May, AHC has committed to making changes under the eye of the Arlington County Board, undertaking repairs, installing new leadership, adding communication channels and establishing a claims process for damaged belongings.
Lopez is proposing the following bills to protect tenants with livability grievances against their landlords:
- Include “bare minimum livable standards” in the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code
- Extend the period of time eligible for rent reimbursement for condemned properties
- Strengthen the prohibition against retaliatory evictions by landlords
- Institute a “warranty of habitability” clause that tenants can enforce against landlords whose properties don’t meet living basic standards
These are also four changes that former ARLnow opinion columnist Nicole Merlene called for after the conditions at the Serrano garnered widespread attention.
“I’m appreciative that Del. Lopez has been working with local stakeholders to ensure that tenants living in aging buildings will have enhanced rights moving forward,” Merlene, who co-chairs Arlington’s Tenant-Landlord Commission, tells ARLnow.
Lopez has pre-filed these and two bills unrelated to the Serrano. After they’re drafted by attorneys with the Virginia Division of Legislative Services, he’ll introduce them to the House of Delegates during the upcoming two-month General Assembly session, which begins in mid-January.
The first bill would make it easier and cheaper for residents to substantiate in court that their dwelling is unlivable. With “bare minimum” livable standards only found in the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, tenants must hire professional experts to testify on their behalf, Lopez says.
“If these basic standards were in the code, a county inspector would be able to file an abatement order and write a letter of attestation for use in court,” he said.
Advocates say the current court process, with the lawyers and experts required, dissuades tenants from asserting themselves.
The second would entitle residents to three months of rent if their residence is condemned and they have to vacate, since Lopez says the conditions wouldn’t have worsened “overnight.” Currently, tenants are only entitled to one month’s rent and their security deposit.
The third bill would protect tenants from being evicted six months after they bring problems to their property management or sue. Lopez said states with similar laws presume eviction is retaliatory if it happens within a six-month period.
“The reason that’s helpful is so that tenants aren’t scared to bring forward issues,” Merlene said.
An apartment complex in Lyon Park recently issued a warning to tenants saying the only place for child’s play is the playground.
A note provided to ARLnow, addressed to the residents of Washington & Lee Apartments (2200 2nd Street N.), said “children are to be playing in the playground and in no other areas,” in bolded, italicized and underlined letters.
They cannot play in “common areas which include… on the grass or trees,” only the area designated as the playground, according to the note.
It’s one of two notes ARLnow has obtained indicating that some apartment communities are cracking down on play in common areas in response to an uptick in complaints from other tenants about noise and property damage.
The Washington & Lee note was a first for Nicole Merlene, a Tenant-Landlord Commission member and ARLnow opinion columnist. She tells ARLnow it describes a potentially discriminatory practice and reveals the need for Arlington to offer mediation services between tenants and landlords.
“Since I have been on the commission we have not received a complaint of this kind where there is potentially discrimination based on age for activities,” she said.
The note responds to an increase in complaints from tenants about damaged cars from kids playing in the parking lot, a property manager for the complex told ARLnow. In a phone interview, the manager said five complaints have come in the last few months of kids hitting cars with rocks or scratching them up with scooters and bikes. As for the trees and grass, the manager said kids were breaking limbs and digging holes.
“It’s just gotten to the point where the damage and complaints were so bad I’d have to take action,” the manager said. “Because of COVID… [parents] didn’t have adequate care and the children were just left at home on their own.”
The note also bans sidewalk chalk because kids drew on the brick walls, according to the manager. The note said “stricter action will be taken” if the problems continue. In 2014, the same apartments launched a campaign against tenants feeding squirrels.
Merlene said that these kinds of landlord-tenant disputes could be resolved through an out-of-court mediation service — one that Arlington has not had since it was defunded a few years ago, she said.
“This type of out of court service requires both parties to willfully participate, but after conversations with both Alexandria and Fairfax, it is by and large extremely successful at finding a solution when a tenant is the one bringing a grievance,” she said. “The Tenant-Landlord Commission is in the process of looking into ways in which other jurisdictions have successfully provided this service and will recommend a system that works for our community for the Board’s consideration.”
Asked to evaluate the letter, she said commission members are not lawyers or trained in discrimination policy, so commissioners avoid determining if something is illegal. Instead, those with complaints are referred to the county’s Office of Human Rights.
But taking apartmentment owners to court, while a recourse for Arlington tenants, rarely happens.
“Reasons range from fear of potentially losing the case against a big landlord’s lawyer and having to pay their attorney fees, immigration status, cultural barriers, and various other hurdles,” she said.
Complaints of noise and kids’ behavior have also registered with the management office at Union on Queen (1515 N. Queen Street), near Rosslyn.
Tenants received a “friendly reminder” that no residents can hang out in or around the courtyard fountain. It told parents they are responsible if their children play there, according to a screenshot shared with ARLnow.
“Thus far we have seen trash left in the courtyard and in the fountain, and we’ve seen children playing in the courtyard [spraying] water on other resident’s [sic] windows,” the letter said.
The Union on Queen reminder also noted that the office “has received numerous complaints about increased noise levels due to groups being in the courtyard and around the courtyard’s fountain.”
“We will unfortunately have to issue lease violations should the issue persist,” the note said. “Again, we don’t want them to hurt themselves or others in the building. We want all of our residents to be safe and comfortable.”
Photo via Google Maps
There is somewhat of a false dichotomy in our community right now about growth. Are you pro-growth or not?
Plainly, an economy does not succeed without growth. It is my belief, too, that for long-run economic success and stability, growth must be built on sustainable infrastructure.
I would define infrastructure as anything that we issue a bond for. In the past decade that has included schools, transportation, parks, and miscellaneous for projects such as fire stations; in years prior it has also included utilities and government buildings. Bonds theoretically support assets that last ten years or longer.
TLDR: We need growth to provide housing and office space for our growing economy. This does not preclude us from proactively planning for that implication on our schools, parks, transportation, utilities and basic infrastructure needs.
How Do We Track Growth Impacts
I asked the County Board what steps are in the site plan review process for new development to measure the impact on infrastructure.
Christian Dorsey gave a nod to a useful tool, the quarterly development tracker, that shows every development by sector, units, and square foot.
Matt de Ferranti noted that in the site plan review process there is an accounting for estimated number of seats added to designated school districts from new housing development. In my research there is also typically a requirement for a developer to create a Transportation Management Plan that includes items such ongoing payments to Arlington County Commuter Services and loaded SmarTrip cards for new tenants.
All of this is intended to help various departments plan for the future. Unfortunately that information from the site plan review process is not included in the development tracker and doesn’t include future planning outside of schools.
There was an acknowledgement that we do not measure the long term fiscal impacts of development like other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, but that “smart growth” studies support the notion that we will receive net positive benefits.
To understand that process between the planning and budget departments, I asked the county’s Budget Director about the communication between their offices. He indicated that beginning this year they had more frequent and informal discussions about what projects are in the pipeline and how it would impact revenues. There was not a mention of how it would impact infrastructure or future expenditures.
Growth Impact Varies
Growth’s impact on Arlington varies by development type. This seems to not be acknowledged in current planning processes.
For example, apartment buildings are taxed as commercial buildings, not residential buildings. How we assess taxes on commercial and residential buildings are different and the fact that over half of residential units in Arlington are rented means that the distinction of if a development is going to be condos or rentals has an impact.
(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Starting at 6 a.m. today, voters began showing up at their polling places across Arlington as voting in the Democratic primary kicked off.
At Randolph Elementary School in Douglas Park, St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cherrydale, and Madison Community Center in Old Glebe, lines were short and skies were clear.
“It’s been slow, but steady. There’s been 83 people so far, or 2.7 percent turnout. It’s pretty normal,” said Bill Harkins, election officer at St. Agnes.
At Randolph Elementary around 41 people had cast their ballots by 7:41 a.m., according to election officer Harry Dunbar, and another 13 voters arrived in the next half hour. Dunbar said there are 3,000 people who live in the precinct.
“Half of that is normal for a busy general election,” Dunbar said, noting that primary election turnout is usually much lower.
By mid-morning, Arlington’s elections office reported that turnout was somewhat light, but higher in precincts in Arlington’s northwest. Voters in residential northwest Arlington tend to be a bit more conservative, at least relative to the rest of the county.
Update: looks like some of our northwest precincts are reporting a higher turnout, closer to 8% as of 10:30.
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) June 11, 2019
The only hiccup noticed so far was a ballot that wouldn’t scan at Randolph Elementary. At around 8 a.m., officials had identified the likely culprit: blocks that printed too faintly along the border of the document.
Today’s primary marks the end of several hotly contested races between the Democrats on the ballot — namely the race for commonwealth’s attorney and the state Senate seat in the 31st District. With most races still lacking a non-Democratic candidate, the primary could also decide the Nov. 5 general election.
At Randolph, the race on most people’s minds was the one for commonwealth’s attorney between incumbent Theo Stamos and challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti who have clashed in debates since kicking off their campaigns last winter.
Evelyn Luis, a long-time Douglas Park resident, said she doesn’t usually vote in the primaries but showed up today to support Stamos.
“Even though she’s running as a Democrat and I am not a Democrat I know I have to make a choice between the two candidates.” Luis said.
Luis wore a shirt from the 1990s-era Crime Prevention Council of Arlington County, on which she was a board member. She said she disagreed with Tafti’s platform and PAC funding.
Another voter, Aaron Willis, who has lived in the area for a decade, said he’s voted in every primary since moving to the D.C. region. He feels part of the “nerve center” of politics after coming from Ohio where he sometimes felt disconnected.
Willis said he supported Tafti in today’s election, citing her record of pushing for reproductive rights and restoring voting rights to felons.
The interest in the prosecutor’s race also ran high at St. Agnes.
“The important race to me was the commonwealth’s attorney,” said St. Agnes voter Chris Guest. “I think it’s always good to have options, but I wanted to vote against outside money, especially when that’s heavily for one candidate.”
“All of the races are important. Arlington is a great place to live and we have good candidates,” said St. Agnes voter Sarah Devoe this morning. “I’ve been surprised with the commonwealth’s attorney race; it’s not really a race I think of as being competitive. There’s been a lot of TV and print ads. There are two strong candidates.”
Stamos’ record in office and Tafti’s proposed criminal justice reforms have split support among local attorneys and sparked conversations about police brutality and the county’s discovery policy in criminal cases.
Last week, we asked the two Democratic candidates in the State Senate race for the 31st District to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them in the June 11 primary.
Here is the unedited response from Nicole Merlene:
This Tuesday, June 11th, I hope you vote for a change by voting for me to represent you in the Virginia State Senate in the 31st District. A change for you to be represented by someone who prioritizes public transportation, spearhead infrastructure projects that improve our District’s parks, schools, and housing developments. With your vote, I hope to put our district on a track for continued, sustainable growth, and prioritizes an environment we should be proud to leave for future generations. A change away from representation that is representing themselves for private pay over the interests of the 31st District, and voting against our interests on transportation, development, and the environment because of donor influence. I want to help improve the schools I attended, the parks I played in as a child, the transportation system I use every day to get to work.
Why Me: Northern Virginia is a transient community. 2/3 of Arlington residents work outside of Arlington. We have systems in place from our buses to roads that do not prioritize regional travel causing unnecessarily long travel times. For example, we have a funding mechanism at the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority that by and large has localities submitting separate proposals for roads and highways without regional vision; Arlington, Fairfax, DC, Loudoun, all have their own bus systems that rarely cross jurisdictional boundaries.
As a region must also commit to being forward thinking on projects like high speed rail to connect multiple employment hubs across the east coast. My goal will never be to get “#Back2Good“. My goal will be state of the art. I am proud to be endorsed by Greater Greater Washington, the region’s thought leader on transportation and housing policy, for my vision on how to literally move the region forward.
Why Not My Opponent: Sitting on the Transportation Committee – it is not their priority. Has introduced more bills to toll I-495, I-66, and on towing than anything related to public roads and our public transportation system – after the tolling and towing industry were some of their largest donors (1, 2, 3) – putting in place regressive policy to tax favoring private over public infrastructure.
Development & Economy
Why Me: Due to Virginia being a Dillon Rule state, issues from flexibility for affordable housing zoning laws, allowing taxing flexibility on commercial real estate that would incentivize lower rents to support small and medium sized businesses, allowing local government to negotiate with developers to support local infrastructure, to connecting our schools to employers for 21st Century Jobs — all require state level action. Having experience from the civic association to economic development level, and a professional background in investment policy, I have what it takes to be your leader on development and economic policy in Richmond.
Why Not My Opponent: Sitting on the Local Government’s Committee – it is not their priority. Voted for the 2016 Proffer Bill that cut local government’s ability to negotiate with developers to give back affordable housing and other infrastructure funds to offset overdevelopment. This past session introduced a replacement bill that barely puts a dent in reversing the detrimental effects of what was passed in 2016.
Why Me: Environmental protections need to be baked into every policy that is written, from our roads to buildings. I would prioritize increased energy efficiency standards, alternative energy and solar freedom, expanding our state parks, and preserving our watershed – as this district is gerrymandered along the Potomac River. I believe in a green economy where we can do things like take our, now un-recycled glass, and transform it into road pavement in a joint venture with Fairfax and other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. I am proud to have been endorsed by leadership of the Arlington Tree Action Group and Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks for my commitment to preserving our parks, greenspace, and watershed.
Why Not My Opponent: After pledging not to take money from Dominion Energy, the state regulated utility that has been a massive hinderance to moving environmental legislation forward, my opponent immediately broke her pledge and took money from Dominion Energy lobbyists just weeks later.
There is no Republican challenger in this race and the winner of the Primary is likely to be your next State Senator. I hope to be your choice to represent the interests of our community in Richmond. This is just the beginning of a continued two-way policy conversation between you, and I, as your representative.
I humbly ask for your vote on June 11th.
Favola’s Consulting Questioned by Challenger — “Is two-term Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) a rising star, poised to become chairwoman of a Senate committee if Democrats seize control of the Senate? Or is she an opportunist capitalizing on insider influence for personal gain? That’s a question for voters this June in a primary that pits Favola against challenger Nicole Merlene.” [Arlington Connection]
Video: CCTV Sewer Inspections — Arlington County uses cameras inserted into manholes to inspect its sanitary and storm sewers for cracks and other problems. [YouTube]
Another Arlington Cybersecurity Firm Acquired — “Arlington-based endpoint cybersecurity firm Endgame is being acquired by Netherlands-based search and data management firm Elastic N.V. for $234 million in stock and debt repayment, according to an announcement by the two companies.” [Washington Business Journal]
New Cybersecurity Firm Unveiled — “[Arlington-based] Kfivefour today emerged from stealth and announced the immediate availability of its full spectrum Red Team assessments, training and penetration testing services. Kfivefour is a private sector focused cybersecurity affiliate of Millennium Corporation, a defense contractor and cybersecurity company.” [PR Newswire]
Local Startup Founder Arrested — “[Former Arlington resident] Andrew Powers, the founder and CEO of communications technology firm CommuniClique Inc. — sometimes known as Clique API — has been arrested by the FBI, which has charged him with a felony for what it described as part of ‘a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.'” [Washington Business Journal]
County Board Roundup — As expected, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to approve a contract for Nauck Town Square, a purchase agreement to acquire Virginia Hospital Center-owned property, and a permit to convert former administrative offices next to Washington-Lee High School to classroom space for up to 600 students.
Adding Amazon Acquisitions in Arlington? — “Keep an eye on what companies Amazon.com Inc. buys next. It could be what fills HQ2. Acquisitions will likely determine what jobs and teams develop at the second headquarters in Arlington, said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of worldwide economic development.” [Washington Business Journal]
Drivers Work to Inflate Prices at DCA — “Every night, several times a night, Uber and Lyft drivers at Reagan National Airport simultaneously turn off their ride share apps for a minute or two to trick the app into thinking there are no drivers available — creating a price surge. When the fare goes high enough, the drivers turn their apps back on and lock into the higher fare.” [WJLA]
Garvey Endorses Stamos — “I believe we could use a healthy debate about equity in Arlington and how our legal justice system works. However, a healthy debate means using facts about what is working and what is not… I hope you will join me in voting for Theo Stamos for Commonwealth’s Attorney on June 11.” [Libby Garvey]
Sun Gazette Endorses Favola, Lopez — “In its endorsements, the paper said neither Nicole Merlene (who is challenging Favola) nor Julius Spain (who is taking on Lopez) has reached the rather high bar set for an endorsement of challengers to sitting office-holders.” [InsideNova]
Merlene on Kojo — “On @kojoshow, @NicoleMerleneVA says a second bridge over the Potomac, perhaps in Loudoun County, is needed, especially in light of the recent Beltway closure. She also expresses support for marijuana decriminalization and medical marijuana in Va.” [Twitter]
Arlington Firms in Fortune 1000 — Four Arlington-based companies are in the new Fortune 1000 list: AES, CACI International, Graham Holdings, and AvalonBay Communities. Fairfax County, meanwhile, is home to ten Fortune 500 companies. [Fortune, Twitter]]
Man Sentenced for Threatening Ajit Pai — “Threatening to actually kill a federal official’s family because of a disagreement over policy is not only inexcusable, it is criminal. This prosecution shows not only that we take criminal threats seriously, but also that online threats of violence have real world consequences.” [Twitter, USDOJ]
Another Amazon-Adjacent Acquisition — “Amazon’s planned second headquarters continues to attract the interest of major investors to the National Landing area. Newmark Knight Frank announced Friday it brokered the sale of Presidential Tower at 2511 Jefferson Davis Highway on behalf of the seller, Beacon Capital Partners. The building sold for $123M, according to CoStar information.” [Bisnow]
Photo courtesy @zachzsnapz/Instagram.
Tag ARLnow on Instagram for us to consider your photo for sharing on Insta and in the Morning Notes.
Merlene Accuses Favola of Sexism — “Normally, Democratic debates in deep-blue Arlington are wonky, congenial, staid, even boring affairs, where the candidates at least pretend to be cordial to each other. And tonight’s 31st State Senate district Democratic debate, between incumbent Sen. Barbara Favola and challenger Nicole Merlene, largely held to that model for the entire debate… until the closing statements, when basically all hell broke loose.” [Blue Virginia, PDF]
Metro Closure This Weekend — “[On] May 4 and 5, Metro will be closed south of Reagan National Airport– six stations in all. Trains will be replaced by free shuttle buses at Braddock Road, King St-Old Town, Eisenhower Ave, Huntington, Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield.” [WUSA 9]
Arlington and Amazon Emails Revealed — “Arlington County officials worked closely with Amazon.com Inc. to present a good public relations strategy in the weeks leading to their passage of the company’s $23 million incentive package, emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show. The emails indicate some county officials were trying to develop a cozy relationship and wanted to help Amazon navigate challenges and smooth over some criticism.” [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Man Donates Flag Tie to New U.S. Citizen — Arlington resident Marc Johnson was trying to sell a patriotic American flag tie on Ebay after cleaning out his closet, but ended up donating it to the would-be buyer when he learned that the buyer was planning to wear the tie to his swearing-in ceremony to become an American citizen. [Washington Post]
Arlington Sheriff’s Office Turning 150 — “The 150th anniversary of establishment of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office will be commemorated on May 7 as part of National Correctional Employees Week. The Arlington Sheriff’s Office was established at a time when Arlington (then known as Alexandria County) was being separated from the town (now city) of Alexandria and into its own self-governing locality.” [InsideNova]
History of Harry W. Gray House — “On this day in Arlington history: May 1, 1881 Harry W. Gray and his family move into their house. He and his family took years to build it and it is the only one of its kind for miles… The house remains a sturdy structure, its longevity a testament to Gray’s workmanship.” [Facebook]
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Nicole Merlene, a Democrat challenging state Senator Barbara Favola (D), has become embroiled in a war of words with a self-described political meme account on Twitter.
The incident started with Merlene’s introduction at an Arlington Young Democrats forum.
“As a renter, as someone who completely relies on public transportation because they can’t afford a car, as someone who had to pay out of state tuition for college, as someone who has a very small prospect of owning a home in Northern Virginia unless I get married,” Merlene said in her opening remarks, “when I think about the future, our environment comes to mind. Have we taken the action needed to put us on a sustainable path forward? Do we have leadership in Richmond willing to stand up to Dominion?”
Accusing Favola of conflicts of interest and calling to ban political contributions from Dominion Energy — which has contributed $9,500 to Favola’s campaigns — have been some of the more vocal talking points from Merlene’s campaign.
But an anonymous Twitter account called Virginia Political Memes attacked Merlene over the comments and derided the candidate’s financial status as a “poor personal decision.”
.@NicoleMerleneVA's remarks on why she's running (is a renter, can't afford a house in NOVA, paid out of state tution, etc.) sound more like poor personal decision making than a platform. I mean she says she can't afford a car–how is she going to get to Richmond? #VApolitics https://t.co/7y5gBtqN3E
— Virginia Political Memes (@VApoliticalmeme) April 18, 2019
One of the most fundamental parts of being a Democrat is that no matter your socioeconomic status, your religion, your gender identity, your race — is that you’re provided an opportunity to succeed and you’re given a level playing field… To write off an entire segment of our population as “poor” because they have to rent or because they have to use public transportation is despicable.
I have a platform prioritizing transportation & affordability bc these are some of the regions biggest challenges. It is what we are talking about in every debate bc it resonates and is finally being brought as a priority. Jeering on trolls making fun of my income isnt leadership pic.twitter.com/IuM6KNBsUM
— Nicole Merlene for Virginia State Senate (@NicoleMerleneVA) April 19, 2019
Favola waded into the fight as well and said that Merlene “should take her own advice” when it comes to elevating the political discussion.
I’m very proud of the positive pragmatic and progressive campaign I’ve run and my over twenty years of public service. Maybe @NicoleMerleneVA should take her own advice.
— Barbara Favola (@BarbaraFavola) April 19, 2019
The argument escalated to threats of a physical confrontation from Merlene’s brother — a threat lampooned in the responses — for which Merlene took to Twitter to apologize.
I apologize, this should have never happened. pic.twitter.com/9caeYBGgZZ
— Nicole Merlene for Virginia State Senate (@NicoleMerleneVA) April 19, 2019
Arlington’s primary election be held on June 11 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.